One of the things I like about working for the BBC is that you get to produce news material for television, radio and online. Although each medium requires a different set of skills, it allows you to cover all aspects of a story.
The material from my recent trip to Sierra Leone with the BBC’s International Development Correspondent, Mark Doyle, is a good example. The Charles Taylor trial highlighted the role “blood diamonds” played in the civil war in that part of Africa. But it also created a bad image for Sierra Leone that has proved hard to shake. Ten years after the end of the civil war, many people still think “blood diamonds” are mined in the country. The reality could not be more different and we wanted to reflect that in the material we gathered.
We visited the town of Koidu, in the east of the country. This is the area where the rebel war in Sierra Leone began in 1991 and – not coincidentally – the place where most of the country’s diamonds are found.
We produced a television package for BBC World, a radio package for the World Service and an online piece for the website. The television package, which you can see below, allowed us to get across the visual nature of the story, showing how much the country’s mining industry has moved on from the days of “blood diamonds” and also how busy and vibrant Koidu had become since the war, when it witnessed some of the worst fighting.
The World Service package, below, allowed us to paint a similar picture for radio. The use of natural sound is crucial in helping to do this. It’s also a more intimate and personal medium than television as it is like having a conversation with a person, allowing Mark to get across his own reflections on how much things had moved on, having covered the war extensively during the 1990s.
Finally, in the online piece, Mark was able to flesh out the facts of the story, give more details about Koidu and reflect more of the views of some of the characters involved, such as the billionaire investor, Beny Steinmetz, the owner of Koidu Holdings and the Mayor of Koidu, Sahr Musa Sessie-Gbenda. If you tried to do this to the same extent in a television package it is very likely the viewer would switch off. You can read Mark’s online piece here.
For me as a journalist, I don’t like to restrict myself to working in just one medium. I see images, audio and words as a set of tools that can be used to reflect the many different aspects of a story. Unfortunately we don’t always have the luxury of time to produce material for television, radio and online, but when we do, it makes for more effective journalism.